PR for Startups: Breaking the Media without Breaking the Bank

For startups, garnering media attention among a sea of other new businesses is a common challenge, and oftentimes slips to the bottom of priority lists. During a company’s early stages, tight budgets mean entrepreneurs can rarely afford to hire PR firms, or even in-house specialists.

Yet, good press coverage stands as one of the biggest drivers of success for startup businesses. In fact, survey results have shown that startup companies that engage in PR campaigns are 30 percent more successful in getting funding within one to three months than those that don’t.

PR for Startups: Breaking the Media without Breaking the Bank image PR 2 300x183PR for Startups: Breaking the Media without Breaking the BankSo, how can startups get their names out there, and for cheap? Sure, social media is a great engine for word-of-mouth promotion (and a free one at that), but it’s certainly not enough. Considering how expansive social media platforms have become today, cutting through the noise is a big challenge, especially for an unknown company.

In a recent Forbes article, Stephanie Kaplan, founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Her Campus Media, pointed out a particular built-in skill that all entrepreneurs inherently possess, putting them ahead of the curve when it comes to PR and marketing: “They already know how to sell their story.”

Similar to how entrepreneurs might sell an elevator pitch to potential customers, the same can be shared with the media, drawing them into the business with a compelling and relevant story.

Stephanie outlined five simple tips for startups to effectively garner quality media attention, without shelling out the big bucks:

1. “Ditch the press release for your elevator pitch” – Besides the fact that press release services can be quite costly, for companies trying to explain novel business concepts, an overly formal, wordy press release might not be the most effective route. Kaplan notes, “The easier you make it for [the media] to tell your story, the more likely they are to report on it.”

2. “Be the expert” – Journalists are on the lookout for credible sources to support their stories. If you can position yourself as an industry thought leader, not only will they be more apt to feature your commentary, but you’ll stick out as a reliable resource for anything they might be working on in the future.

3. “Understand media deadlines” – Timeliness is key, so if you’re looking to weave your company’s news into a particular theme or event, be sure to plan ahead. If you want to be featured in a holiday gift guide, for instance, start reaching out to media in September, not November.

4. “Be persistent” – While you don’t want to be overbearing with constant phone calls, a simple email follow up could really pay off. If you still don’t get any response, it might be worth going back to the drawing board to assess whether you’re targeting the right journalists.

5. “Don’t pay big bucks for a media list” – There are a ton of great media tools out there, although the most commonly used services, like Vocus and Cision, are typically tailored for larger brands and may be well beyond the means of emerging startups. Kaplan lists a few different services that can help companies build strong media lists for as little as $5.

March Communications is a tech B2B PR firm located in Boston.

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